Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Universality of Bigotry:
My Opinion Piece on Al Jazeera English

The following article was originally posted on the Al Jazeera English Opinion page.

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Racism and ignorance know no nationality
Nima Shirazi | 26 Jul 2012

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, U.S. Representative Sue Myrick, and Israeli Knesset Minister Michael Ben Ari

In late June, when Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi spouted anti-Semitic comments at a Tehran forum marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, his offensive rhetoric was rightfully ridiculed and condemned. Rahimi declared his belief that the Talmud, the central holy scripture of Judaism, "teaches [Jews] how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother", and also to "destroy everyone who opposes the Jews". Jews, according to Rahimi, "think God has created the world so that all other nations can serve them".

Midway through his speech, Rahimi decided to distinguish between Jews who "honestly follow the prophet Moses" and the Zionists who are "the main elements of the international drugs trade".

"While the Zionists utilise the narcotics to devastate other societies," Rahimi stated, "they safeguard their own society against such drugs" - noting incorrectly that "you cannot find a single addict among the Zionists. They do not exist".

Commentary such as this should be called out for what it is: racist, ignorant, and appalling. Yet, Rahimi's tirade was also disingenuously elevated to the level of an Iranian government official statement, and used as "proof" that the Iranian government is not merely vehemently anti-Zionist, but venomously anti-Semitic.

So if the bigoted comments of government officials are evidence of a country's inherent backwardness and barbarism, one must wonder what all those who were so offended by Rahimi's comments about the holy scripture and belief system of the Jewish people have to say about the comments and actions on July 17 of Israeli Knesset Minister and Meir Kahane devotee Michael Ben Ari.
"Rahimi's tirade was ... used as proof that the Iranian government is not merely vehemently anti-Zionist, but venomously anti-Semitic."

'The King's Torah'

After all Knesset members received a new edition of the New Testament, gifts from of a Christian Israeli publisher, Ben Ari (who is also leading the staggeringly racist pogroms against Africans living in Israel) reacted by tearing the Bible to shreds and throwing it in the trash, making sure to have the episode photographed. He then proudly sent the pictures to the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.

Ben Ari was quoted as declaring: "This abominable book [the New Testament] brought about the murder of millions of Jews in the Inquisition and autos-da-fé." He added: "This is a provocation by church missionaries and there is no doubt that this book and those who sent it belong in the garbage can of history."

The Jewish Daily Forward, in its report on the incident, appropriately asked: "Does one dare imagine what the reaction would be from Jews if a non-Jewish Knesset member, or perhaps a politician in another country, publicly destroyed and disposed of a volume of Talmud?"

For all the condemnations of Rahimi's statement regarding Jewish doctrine, it seems that no one has attempted to trace the comment back to its possible (and, I stress, possible) origin in the much publicised writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an Israeli settler who lives in the illegal West Bank colony of Yitzhar near Nablus, whose ultra-fundamentalist Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva has received a massive amount of funding from the Israeli government.

In November 2009, Shapira published The King's Torah, which - according to Ha'aretz - "describes how it is possible to kill non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law)". Ma'ariv reported that "the book contains no fewer than 230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guide for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew" and states that, as non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature", attacks against them curb "evil inclination".

Shapira's book lists hundreds of sources from the Bible and religious law, as well as quotes from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the fathers of religious Zionism, and Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, a dean of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, the stronghold of national-religious Zionism located in Jerusalem.

According to Shapira and his co-author Rabbi Yossi Elitzur: "In any situation in which a non-Jew's presence endangers Jewish lives, the non-Jew may be killed even if he is a righteous Gentile and not at all guilty for the situation that has been created … When a non-Jew assists a murderer of Jews and causes the death of one, he may be killed, and in any case where a non-Jew's presence causes danger to Jews, the non-Jew may be killed..."

"'One must consider killing even babies,' the book says, 'because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents.'"
Even innocent civilians and children are determined to be legitimate targets for murder. "One must consider killing even babies," the book says, "because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents."

Recently, an investigation into allegations of racism, bigotry and calls to violence found within The King's Torah was officially closed.

Islamophobia has also reached high levels within the US government.

Asleep to the danger

In October 2009, US congressmen Sue Myrick (Republican-North Carolina), Paul Broun (Republican-Georgia), John Shadegg (Republican-Arizona) and Trent Franks (Republican-Arizona) issued a call for a federal investigation into the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for placing interns in the Committees on the Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security. The call was triggered by a book named Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamise America, by Dave Gaubatz, an anti-Islamic activist who posed as an intern for CAIR in an attempt to prove that the group is trying to infiltrate Congress.

Myrick also wrote the forward to Gaubatz's book, in which she avers that radical Muslim terror agents live among us and are "carrying out their subversive plan". She continues: "America is asleep to the danger that confronts us. Since the 1960s there has been a concerted effort on the part of radical Islamists to infiltrate our major institutions."

Myrick writes of "their secret plot to take over the United States from within", establish "an impressive infrastructure of support", and "to infiltrate all areas of our society" in order to replace the constitution with "Sharia law". She urges government officials "to stop hiding behind political correctness and keep the American people informed" about "the threat to our sovereignty and our way of life", concluding: "We Americans must wake up before it is too late!"

When asked about potential "domestic security threats" back in 2003, Myrick replied: "Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country."

In 2011 in Yorba Linda, California, an US-Muslim group held a fundraising event for relief work in the US, attended by local families and their young children. Outside, an appalling anti-Muslim protest raged. Among the speakers addressing the crowd were California Congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller and Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly.

Pauly described the Muslim charity event as "pure, unadulterated evil" and, after boasting that her son was serving in the Marine Corps, said: "As a matter of fact, I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise."

Royce told the rabid, hateful crowd: "I'm gonna say this too, a big part of the problem that we face today, is that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticise others' positions no matter how odious, and what do they call that? They call that 'multiculturalism'. And it has paralysed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgment we need to make to prosper as a society." One need only think about where Anders Breivik's views on "multiculturalism" led him to see how dangerous this sort of talk actually is.

Miller, who said he was there to support the protest and hand out American flags, told those gathered: "I am proud of you, I'm proud of what you're doing, I'm proud of this country and what we believe in, and let's not let people who disagree with us destroy it."

Net of suspicion

The country Miller is so proud of is the one in which Peter King holds congressional hearings encouraging racial profiling, inciting Islamophobia, and promoting vicious stereotypes of an already targeted, terrorised, and tormented minority community. It's the nation that reacts to the perceived threat of Muslim-American terrorism "by casting a wide net of suspicion over entire communities based solely on their religious beliefs, race, or national origin" and conducts secret, illegal surveillance of those communities.

It's where the "future leaders" of the most powerful and aggressive military on the planet have been taught "that a 'total war' against the world's 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from Islamic terrorists" and that "using the lessons of 'Hiroshima' to wipe out whole cities at once" and "targeting the 'civilian population wherever necessary'" may be required. It's a country whose secretary of defence hand-delivered to the former president a daily report of critical, classified military intelligence with cover sheets featuring Biblical quotes to emphasise the Crusades-like effort of US soldiers in the Middle East.

Iranian Vice-President Rahimi's comments about the Talmud are unacceptable. So are Ben Ari and Shapira's interpretations of both the Torah and New Testament. The same goes for Binyamin Netanyahu's incessant repetition that the Iranian government is inherently "irrational" due to its faith, and Ehud Barak's misunderstanding of the Shia concept of taqiyya, which he erroneously described to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an April interview as "a kind of permission, from heaven, to the leader to lie [and] mislead partners as long as it's needed in order to reach the objective, the political objectives of the movement, the group or the tribe or the clan or the nation".

So next time the media overreacts to something blurted out by some Iranian official, let's make sure to remember that Iranians certainly have no monopoly on ignorance. There's plenty to go around.

Source: Al Jazeera

*****

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Washington Post's Racism Problem:
Op-Ed Writers Fear 'Flood' of Arabs & Africans Pose Demographic, Existential Threat to a Pure Paradise

Washington Post opinion writers Jennifer Rubin and Ruth Marcus

The Washington Post seems to be incapable of preventing its opinion writers from making racist statements about Palestinians and Africans in columns about the demography of Israel.

In yesterday's Post, Ruth Marcus published a column from Tel Aviv entitled, "Israel confronts a flood of African refugees," in which she laments the current anti-African pogroms in Israel, but also gives credence to Zionist worries that, without forcibly and explicitly engineering population demographics, Israel may very well cease to be a majority-Jewish state.  Marcus opens by painting a picture of an impoverished South Tel Aviv neighborhood with a large migrant community as "seedy" and resembling "another country," due to her observation that there is "trash spilling out of dumpsters," there are "peddlers hawking batteries and blue jeans from sidewalk mats," and most importantly, that "nearly every person is African."

Marcus also describes the growing numbers of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees and migrant workers in Israel as "a flood" which has "created a serious social problem." Marcus continues:
Israel faces a demographic threat to the Jewish state from its fast-growing Arab population, even without a deluge of African refugees with no religious ties or political loyalties to the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that "60,000 infiltrators are liable to become 600,000 and lead to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
That birth-rates of an indigenous population present such a terrifying "threat" to a super-militarized, settler-colonial, ethnic-cleansing, apartheid state should be enough to be make it perfectly clear just how important equality, human rights and "democracy" are to the "Jewish State." Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada has already pointed out the clear racism and bigotry present in Marcus' words:
Not one mainstream commentator in the US has dared argue that white supremacy in the United States faces a "demographic threat" from Latinos because California and Texas have become "majority-minority" states, or had truck with the notion that the US faces "eradication as a white and democratic state" just because most babies now born in the US are non-white.
Beyond that, Marcus' choice of terminology, namely her use of "flood" and "deluge," is reminiscent of language used by her Post colleague, right-wing commentator Jennifer Rubin, who has described the inalienable Palestinian Right of Return as "the demand to flood Israel with the children and grandchildren of Arabs who fled during the war of aggression on the infant Jewish state."

Historical revisionism aside (the tired Zionist tale of Palestinians fleeing at the behest of their "leaders" after poor little nascent Israel was savagely attacked by hordes of bloodthirsty Arabs for simply declaring independence has long been debunked – anyone who repeats this absurdity is being willfully dishonest), and taking Rubin's unbridled racism and hatefulness for granted, the use of the word "flood" by both Rubin and Marcus is instructive and revealing.

Not only does a "flood" conjure images of inhuman waves of invasion and destruction (ironic, to say the least, considering the entire history of Israel is that of invasion, settler-colonialism, aggressive territorial expansion, deliberate ethnic cleansing, and the destruction of Palestinian history and culture), but it is also unoriginal.

In late November 1935, Adolph Hitler gave an exclusive interview to Hugh Baillie, president of the United Press, which was featured in the New York World-Telegram. In his attempt to justify the recent passing of the 'Nuremberg Legislation', including the racist 'Reich Citizenship Law' and 'Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor', Hitler stated, "This legislation is not anti-Jewish, but pro-German. The rights of Germans are thereby to be protected against destructive Jewish influences." He then continued,
The Jews, who formed less than one per cent of the population, tried to monopolize the cultural leadership of the people and flooded the intellectual professions, such as, for example, jurisprudence and medicine. The influence of this intellectual Jewish class in Germany had everywhere a disintegrating effect. For this reason in order to bar the spread of this process of disintegration it became essential to take steps to establish a clear and clean separation between the two races.

(Interview quoted in N.H. Baynes, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, Oxford University Press, 1942, Volume I, pp.732)
The supposed threat of "flooding" a pure population with such unsavory and dangerous types as "Jewish intellectuals" (if you're a Nazi), Palestinian "children and grandchildren" (if you're a proud ethnosupremacist like Rubin), or African refugees (if you're an oh-so-concerned Liberal Zionist like Marcus) is clearly common to racist and discriminatory ideologies that rely on the perception of eternal victimization and subsequent need for demographic engineering in order to preserve righteous purity, privilege and dominance.

Marcus rightly condemns the racist rhetoric of "Knesset member Miri Regev of Netanyahu's Likud Party [who] termed the Africans a 'cancer in our body'" and notes that "although she later apologized, a poll found 52 percent of Jewish Israelis agreeing with that ugly sentiment."

Yet that very same "ugly sentiment" has been a staple of Israeli terminology for years when it comes to the presence of indigenous Palestinians within Israel itself - yes, the "demographic" and "existential" threat that both Marcus and Rubin fear.

In August 2002, then-IDF chief Moshe Ya'alon also described Palestinians as an "existential threat" and a "cancer" during an interview with Ha'aretz's Ari Shavit entitled "The enemy within."  Ya'alon said that the "solution" to such "cancerous manifestations" in the West Bank and Gaza is a combination of "amputation" and "chemotherapy."

A couple of years later, right-wing Israeli politician/Golan Heights colonist Effi Eitam was also interviewed by Ha'aretz and declared, "I say that the Israeli Arabs are a time bomb underneath the whole democratic system in Israel. The state of Israel now faces an existential threat that has the character of an elusive threat; and the nature of elusive threats is they resemble cancer." 

Note, again, that the cancerous, existential threat to Israeli "democracy" is Palestinian babies being born in their ancestral homeland. That same year, Eitam - who has defended the lethal use of Palestinian civilians as human shields by the IDF as "very moral" and routinely calls for the aggressive ethnic cleansing of even more (ideally all) Palestinians from the entirety of historic Palestine - revealed his own prescription for Israel's policy toward Palestinians: "We will have to kill them all," he said.

Such sentiments are so similar to Nazi ideology as to be virtually indistinguishable.  Both Ya'alon and Eitam's statements echo Hitler's assertion that "The Jews are a cancer on the breast of Germany," while Netanyahu's warning that a growing African population will eventually lead to the "eradication of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," quoted in Marcus' op-ed, resembles what Adolph Hitler told a crowd in Salzburg in August 1920.  He said that, for Germany to "recover its health...the Jewish spirit" must be "eradicated," and continued:
Don't be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus.  Don't think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis.  This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst.
That a minority community - whether indigenous or immigrant - should be considered a deluge, a cancer or a threat to the desired demographic make-up of a state reveals far more about those who feel threatened than it does about that demonized and dehumanized community.

When will The Washington Post insist its columnists refrain from using such racist rhetoric?

*****

Portions of this piece were previously posted as a comment here.

*****

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Smiles and Denials:
Official Israeli and Iranian Statements Demonstrate a Double Standard

Burgas, Bulgaria - July 18, 2012
 
 Tehran, Iran - January 11, 2012

Reacting to the immediate Israeli accusations that Iran was behind the blast that killed Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, insisted, "The  Islamic Republic of Iran, which itself is the biggest victim of terrorism, considers any act that endangers the lives of innocent people in order to fulfill illegitimate political objectives as inhumane and strongly condemns it."

The official IRNA news agency quoted Mehmanparast as saying, "The Zionist regime, which had a direct role in the assassination of  our  country's nuclear scientists, is leveling baseless accusations to divert global attention to its own terrorist nature."

Despite incessant allegations - devoid of evidence, of course - of Iran culpability, the BBC reports that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov has consistently "declined to back Israeli claims that Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah played a role."

A bogus story in the Times of Israel which claimed Iranian President Mahmoud had gloated over the Burgas bus bombing has been successfully debunked by both myself and BBC Persian correspondent Bahman Kalbasi.  Still, it may be illuminating to consider the differences between the actual Iranian response to the terrorist attack in Bulgaria that took the lives of Israeli vacationers and the Israeli response to the multiple murders of Iranian scientists on the streets of Tehran, often when they have been accompanied by members of their family, going to work, or dropping their children off at nursery school.

The targeted killings of Iranian professors and scientists have widely been considered to be the work of Mossad, either on its own or in conjunction with Iranian terrorist organizations.  Yet, in response to the murders, the Israeli government has never issued an official denial of responsibility.

On January 11, 2012, the day 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was murdered in his car, Israel's top military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav  Mordechai, posted on his Facebook page: "I don't know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear."

What possible "score" could be settled by killing a man who works at a nuclear facility that is fully safeguarded and monitored by the IAEA remains a mystery, especially considering that - as a Reuters Special Report affirmed earlier this year - "[t]he United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on  three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead."

Responding to the murder of Ahmadi-Roshan, married and the father of a young son, Time Magazine quoted a "senior Israel official" smiled and said, "Yeah, one more.  I don't feel sad for him."

Confronted with the claim that Israel was responsible for the targeted killing, an anonymous Israeli official told The Washington Post, "It is not our policy to comment on this sort of speculation when it periodically arises."

During an interview with CNN shortly after Ahmadi-Roshan's killing, Israeli President Shimon Peres was also asked about Israel's involvement.  He replied dismissively: "Not to the best of my knowledge."

Meanwhile, Mickey Segal, a former director of the Israeli military’s Iranian  intelligence department, said, "Many bad things have been happening to Iran in the recent period.  Iran is in a situation where pressure on it is mounting, and the latest assassination joins the pressure that the Iranian regime is facing."

Ahmadi-Roshan's murder came the day after IDF Chief Benny Gantz reportedly told a Knesset panel that 2012  would be a "critical year" for Iran, not least of all because of "things that  happen to it unnaturally."

Now imagine if any of these statements had come from Iranian officials about Israel this past week.  And think what we'd be hearing if Iran's Foreign Ministry had yet to issue a statement about the Burgas bombing, with the claim that it is not Iran's "policy to comment on this sort of speculation."  Still, Iran's denials are dismissed as yet another instance of devious Persian duplicity, while Israel's smug silence is simply ignored, or even admired.

Of course, while denial doesn't mean absolution and silence isn't necessarily complicity, the double standards of international expectation, obligation, and suspicion when it comes to Israel and Iran remain as stark as ever.

*****

UPDATE:

July 25, 2012 - Addressing a United Nations Security Council meeting today, Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee stated, "It's amazing that just a few minutes after the terrorist attack, Israeli officials announced that Iran was behind it," adding, "We have never and will not engage in such a despicable attempt on [the lives of] innocent people."

Khazaee even suggested that Israel itself was behind the bombing.  "Such terrorist operation could only be planned and carried out by the same regime whose short history is full of state terrorism operations and assassinations aimed implicating others for narrow political gains," he said. "I could provide...many examples showing that this regime killed its own citizens and innocent Jewish people during the last couple of decades."

While such an allegation is surely reactionary and hyperbolic (the result, one can assume, of a frustrating week of unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations), it is nevertheless grounded in the fact that Israel has engaged in false flag operations many times before.

*****

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Insanity of Anti-Iran Propaganda

"In order to find the truth, we have to get as close to the source as possible. The farther we get from the source, the more likely it is that the truth has been twisted through manipulation or error, a process gleefully reproduced in the child's game of telephone."

- Chris Hayes, Twilight of the Elites
A new ad released by the Mitt Romney campaign takes a quote from Barack Obama about the collectivism of progress and success so out of context as to be laughable. This morning's Up With Chris does an excellent job setting the record straight (watch here):

Apologies for the advertisement that plays before the clip

The same out-of-context, demonization propaganda is now in full swing with regard to the recent tragic terrorist bombing in the coastal Bulgarian town of Burgas that targeted Israeli tourists. The difference is that such propaganda, unlike that of U.S. presidential campaign mudslinging, is a matter of life and death and establishes disgusting falsehoods as facts that race around the internet and the world, forever defining the narrative, obscuring the truth, and perpetuating pervasive mythologies that permeate our already skewed discourse on the issues of Iran, Israel, U.S. foreign policy and, now, the Burgas bus bombing.

The Times of Israel, the same "news" outfit that was quick to identify former Guantanamo detainee Mehdi Ghezali as the bomber based on half-baked Bulgarian media reports (a claim immediately denied by all intelligence agencies involved in the case) is back at it, this time with a report declaring that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has revealed (and reveled in) Iran's culpability for the attack in Bulgaria.

The Times opens its piece with what could not be mistaken for anything other than what it presents as a clear statement of fact: "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gloated publicly on Thursday over the deaths of Israelis in a terror bombing in Bulgaria, and hinted that Iran was responsible for the attack." Claiming that, just hours after the attack itself, "Ahmadinejad described the attack as 'a response' to Israeli 'blows against Iran,'" the report continues:
"The bitter enemies of the Iranian people and the Islamic Revolution have recruited most of their forces in order to harm us," he said in a speech reported by Israel’s Channel 2 TV. "They have indeed succeeded in inflicting blows upon us more than once, but have been rewarded with a far stronger response." He added: "The enemy believes it can achieve its aims in a long, persistent struggle against the Iranian people, but in the end it will not. We are working to ensure that." Ahmadinejad's speech was interpreted in Israel as asserting that the Burgas bombing was a revenge attack for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has repeatedly blamed Israel.
This report spread like wildfire around the internet, from right-wing sites like The Blaze and Commentary to progressive outlets like Paul Woodward's War in Context.

But it's a lie.

Ahmadinejad's speech, delivered in commemoration of World Mosque Day, has absolutely nothing to do with the bus bombing in Bulgaria. The quotes cherry-picked and bizarrely analyzed by the Israeli media have nothing to do with boasting or bragging about the attack.

The speech, typical of Ahmadinejad, states clearly that, in the face of Western aggression and efforts to impose hegemony over Iran and its rights, the Islamic Republic will stand firm and not back down. This is even evident in the English language report on the speech itself, available on Ahmadinejad's own website.

"I assure the Iranian people that the government will not retreat even one iota from their rights, principles and values against the declining materialistic powers," Ahmadinejad said, "even if the enemies mobilize their past and future capabilities and get accompanied by certain parties inside the country."

The key part of the speech twisted and bastardized by the Israeli press actually states that "the main enemies of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution have waged a major battle and mobilized their utmost power and capability but the Iranian government strongly resists against them. The enemy deals a blow to the Iranian nations step by step; but, in return, it receives a stronger, heavier blow."

The Iranian president is so obviously talking about the campaign to abrogate Iran's nuclear rights (Ahmadinejad said that "the hegemonic system opposes the Iranian nation only because of the high speed of its progress in various sectors such as industries, science and technology") and Iran's steadfastness in the face of economic pressure and ever-mounting sanctions and threats that to allege this has anything to do with Burgas is not only amazingly dishonest and grotesque, but also dangerous.

The critical paragraph of Ahmadinejad's speech (a small portion of the whole, which mostly praises the importance of mosques as constructive cultural centers of society) can be read below both in the original Farsi along with an alternate translation:
دكتر احمدي‌نژاد در بخش ديگري از سخنان خود با بيان اينکه امروز دولت درگير يک نبرد سنگين و تمام عيار است، خاطرنشان کرد: امروز دشمنان اصلي ملت، فرهنگ، آرمانها، انقلاب اسلامي و موجوديت ايران، همه توان خود را بسيج کرده اند تا از حرکت سريع و رو به پيشرفت ملت ايران جلوگيري کنند و دولت نيز با همه توان و به صورت شبانه روزي و لحظه اي روياروي آنها ايستاده است. دشمنان با تسلط بر همه مراکز اقتصاد و قدرت در دنيا به صورت شبانه روزي و لحظه اي عليه جمهوري اسلامي اقدام مي کنند و دولت نيز پا به پاي آنها به مقابله برخاسته و اگر هر ضربه اي وارد کنند، ضربه اي دريافت مي کنند كه معمولاً ضربه دريافتي آنها سنگينتر از ضربه اي است که وارد کرده اند.

Dr. Ahmadi Nejad in another section of his remarks (words) mentioning that today the (Iranian) Government is involved in a heavy and all encompassing struggle reminded that: today the main enemies of the people, culture, ideals,the Islamic revolution and the Iranian existence have mobilized all their abilities (powers) to prevent the fast movement towards progress of the Iranian nation, and the Government (Iranian) also with all of its power, day and night and every moment is standing in front of them. The enemies with domination over all the centers of economy and power in the world day and night and every moment are acting against the Islamic Republic and the Government (Iranian) also has risen in front of them (standing in front of them, against them) and if they deliver a blow they will receive a blow which usually the blow they receive will be heavier than the blow they have delivered.

(translation by Ahmad Shirazi)

[An additional, more fluid, less literal, translation has been appended below]
The use of this quote, and the false presentation of it as having anything to do with the Burgas attack, may set a new low in the warmongering campaign that Israel is waging against Iran.

*****

Within minutes of my posting this article, Paul Woodward of War in Context updated his own post: "A Times of Israel article that I referred to yesterday turns out to have been total bunk — surprise, surprise." He also graciously links back to this piece.

*****

UPDATE:

July 22, 2012 - Here is yet another translation of the relevant part of Ahmadinejad's speech, generously provided by professional translator Mehrdad Shahabi:
Referring to the fact that the government is today engaged in a heavy full-scale struggle, Dr. Ahmadinejad in another part of his speech pointed out that, "Today, the main enemies of the Iranian nation, its culture and ideals, its Islamic Revolution and the nation's very existence have mobilized all their possibilities to impede the Iranian nation's swift progress. In response, doing its utmost, the government, has stood up to them round the clock, day and night.

Dominating the world's economic and power centres, the enemies have been acting against the Islamic Republic round the clock, day and night. The government, for its part, has stood up to them in every step they take. For every blow delivered, they will receive a counter-blow, which is usually heavier than the blow delivered."
*****

UPDATE II:

July 22, 2012 - The Times of Israel has retracted its bogus Ahmadinejad "gloating" story and issued a corrective article entitled, "Ahmadinejad was talking about sanctions, not Burgas, in his speech last Thursday, says Persian expert."

The expert cited is Bahman Kalbasi, correspondent for BBC Persian.

Yesterday, on Twitter, Kalbasi confirmed my debunking of the Times article.
The retraction explains that while "Ahmadinejad's speech was widely interpreted in Israel as asserting that the Burgas bombing was a revenge attack for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists...Kalbasi said such interpretations reflect a mistranslation, and that the speech contains no word or phrase that indicates Ahmadinejad was talking about the bombing. The relevant section of the speech relates to western sanctions on Iran and Iran's response, he said, rather than to the Burgas bombing as on ostensible response to the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists."

The article concludes:
"He was talking about growing international and economic pressure on Iran, and assuring his constituency that their government will stand up for them and fight back," said Kalbasi, noting that Thursday's speech is carried on Ahmadinejad's website.
Glad that's finally cleared up. (Though the damage has already been done.)

*****

UPDATE III:

July 25, 2012 - Atlantic senior editor Robert Wright has thoroughly addressed the mistranslation and faulty analysis of Ahmadinejad's speech.  He is more generous with his terminology than I am, crediting the episode to a study in "confirmation bias" - and he makes a compelling case. (Personally I think that "propaganda" doesn't necessarily have to be deliberately deceiving or have a devious motivation; so, in that way, ingrained assumptions leading to "confirmation bias" could be similarly described as the resulted of a propagandized community or common narrative.)

Wright writes:
Iran may or may not be behind the Bulgarian bombing, but there's no reference to the bombing in Ahmadinejad's speech, and a close appraisal of the speech makes it highly unlikely that Ahmadinejad meant to allude to the bombing.
Nima Shirazi, the blogger who first raised doubts about the Israeli interpretation of Ahmadinejad's remarks, calls the distortion "propaganda." But what seems to me more likely--and, in a way, more unsettling--is that the distortion wasn't intentional, but rather was the result of an essentially unconscious warping that comes naturally to humans.
Specifically, I'm betting that the culprit was "confirmation bias," the tendency of people to see evidence consistent with their pre-existing beliefs (sometimes when it isn't even there) and to ignore or minimize evidence inconsistent with their beliefs. Confirmation bias is at work every day, in Israel and Iran and the United States, often in ways that make war more likely. What follows is the dissection of a single, cautionary case of natural self-deception.
Wright covers the story comprehensively, elaborating on how the "journalistic tendency" of confirmation bias "can pave the way for war."
When you've got Israeli readers who will click on stories about Ahmadinejad's "gloating," and American readers who will do the same, and Iranian readers who will click on stories about the malicious intent of America and Israel, then the natural workings of journalism will reinforce and amplify preexisting incendiary beliefs (though in Iran, of course, the press is less free and more subject to government influence, which brings problems of its own). So confirmation bias enters the system at two points. It motivates some readers to click on certain kinds of stories, and it encourages journalists to produce those kinds of stories even if they're misleading--and journalists don't even have to be bothered by conscious awareness of how they've abetted untruth!
Wright deftly identifies a number of "other elements of self-deception that seem to have been at play" in  erroneously establishing a narrative including "Unreflectively narrowing the meaning of vague or ambiguous words," "Accepting evidence uncritically," and "Making slight and essentially unconscious fudges."  Beyond this, Wright notes two very important points that are worth repeating in full here:
First, given the way human psychology works, the thought that Ahmadinejad "gloated publicly... over the deaths of Israelis" may well be more conducive to war than the belief that Iran is responsible for the deaths. And this "gloating," which many Israelis now believe happened, apparently didn't.
Second, as we listen to Bibi Netanyahu and others assure us that they have overwhelming evidence of Iranian involvement, it's useful to keep in mind that confirmation bias is at work in politicians and intelligence analysts as well as in the rest of us. If we learned nothing else from the runup to the Iraq War, we should have learned that.
The entire post is well worth a read.

******

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Israel Sets the Narrative on Bulgaria Attack:
Accuses Iran with No Evidence; Media Repeats Claim Dutifully

"It almost doesn't matter what proof they have or don't have, it's really a matter of perception right now and Israeli officials are accusing Iran and its government of orchestrating these attacks."

- Stephanie Gosk, MSNBC Correspondent, February 15, 2012

"A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."

- Reverend C.H. Spurgeon, April 1, 1855
The Israeli government wasted no time mourning, memorializing or reflecting on the loss of life after bombing of a bus of Israeli tourists at an airport on the Bulgarian coast.  It was too busy going into full-on warmongering mode, immediately laying the blame for the tragic terrorist act on the government of Iran, despite a complete lack of evidence.

But in this world of propaganda, Israeli officials were out-front, setting the narrative for the Western media before any facts emerged.  Facts aren't important, just perception.  Perception is reality.

Ha'aretz reporter Amos Harel wrote yesterday afternoon:
The government didn't hesitate to point a finger on Wednesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apparently supported by detailed intelligence, immediately blamed Iran for the terror attack on Israelis in Bulgaria that killed seven people.
Netanyahu warned of "an Iranian terror attack spreading throughout the world" and promised that "Israel will retaliate forcefully."  Remember that, whenever Iran has stated its intention to "respond" to attacks on its citizens on its own soil, it is accused of bellicosity and aggression.

Harel reported that the Israelis have "no doubt about who is behind the deadly attack in Bulgaria."  Netanyahu insisted, with no supporting information, "All the indications are that Iran is behind this deadly attack."

This claim, however, was not in line with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's own statements to the press.  Barak said the attack was "clearly...initiated probably by Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or another group under the terror auspices of either Iran or other radical Islamic groups."

So, according to the top Defense official in Israel, the bombing was carried out by someone from some group somewhere that definitely is connected to Iran or someone else.  Absolutely.  Damning evidence, huh?

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took the Netanyahu line as well: "I cannot get into all the operational details, but the identification is certain," he said on Israel Radio. "From immediately after the attack, we worked hard and now the puzzle is put together, the identity and the responsibility are completely clear."

Well that was fast.

Israeli President Shimon Peres jumped on the blame band wagon, saying, "We were witnesses to a deadly terror attack coming out of Iran...we know there were other attempts, and this time they succeeded."  He vowed retribution, stating that Israel "has the means and the will to silence and paralyse terror organisations."

In contrast with Israeli hysteria and acting like a mature adult, Nickolay Mladenov, Bulgarian foreign minister, said, "We're not pointing the finger in any direction until we know what happened and complete our investigation."

Nevertheless, the Iran allegation shot around the world at warp speed and was repeated uncritically by every major news outlet.  Many commentators also noted that the attack came on the 18th anniversary of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a terrorist attack that many have long accused Iran of carrying out, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to back up the claim.

And now, Bulgarian media is reporting that the suicide bomber responsible for the terror attack had no connection to Iran, but was former Guantanamo detainee Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen of Algerian and Finnish ancestry.  He was captured in 2002 in Pakistan and turned over to the United States on suspicion of being an al-Qaeda sympathizer.

The New York Times has an extensive report detailing Bulgarian suspicions, some evidence, and torrent of statements made by Israeli officials.

As more details emerge, it will become more and more clear how despicable the immediate exploitation of this tragedy by Netanyahu and cohorts to blame Iran with no evidence whatsoever actually is.  But why grieve for those murdered and act like a responsible, somber leadership when you can warmonger and point fingers?

*****

UPDATE:

Immediately on the heels of reports that Swedish citizen Mehdi Ghezali is the lead suspect in the bombing, both Bulgarian and Swedish officials have denied such a development in the investigation.

Once again, in contrast to Netanyahu's bloviating, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said, "it is wrong and a mistake to point fingers at this stage of the investigation at any country or organization." Ha'aretz reports:
"We are only in the beginning of the investigation and it is wrong to jump to conclusions," he added, saying that Bulgaria had "excellent cooperation with the Israeli security forces in matters pertaining to the investigation."

Mladenov added that the countries "will investigate until we discover who is behind the attack. At this stage all we know about the identity of the culprit is his external appearance and a copy of a counterfeit Michigan driver's license."
*****

UPDATE II:

July 20, 2012 - By far the best analysis I have seen so far on the Bulgaria bus bombing has been  written by Marsha B. Cohen on LobeLog.  It is a must-read column that provides a wealth of contextual information largely, if not completely, absent from any mainstream coverage of the terror attack.

Read it, reflect on it, pass it along, and remember it when we start to find out what really happened Wednesday.

*****

UPDATE III:

July 20, 2012 - Like something straight out of the Showtime series "Homeland," a bizarre report in the Daily Mail late last month warned:
A trained terrorist from Norway is awaiting orders to carry out an attack on the West, officials from three European security agencies have revealed.

The man is believed to have received terrorist training from Al Qaeda's offshoot in Yemen and is ready to strike.

Western intelligence officials have long feared such a scenario - a convert to Islam who is trained in terrorist methods and can blend in easily in Europe and the U.S., traveling without visa restrictions.

Officials from three European security agencies confirmed the man is 'operational,' meaning he has completed his training and is about to receive a target.

All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly. They declined to name the man, who has not been accused of a crime.

'We believe he is operational and he is probably about to get his target,' one security official said. 'And that target is probably in the West.'
The report, which only cites unnamed sources, describes the potential terrorist as "a man in his 30s with no immigrant background" who, "[a]fter converting to Islam in 2008, [] quickly became radicalized and traveled to Yemen to receive terror training."

Of course, this is proof of absolutely nothing, yet it is one more indication that the immediate rush to judgment and assumption that only Hezbollah and/or Iran could have possibly been responsible for the tragedy in Bulgaria is absurd.

Furthermore, as Glenn Greenwald points out, the New York Times has already determined that Israeli and anonymous American accusations are enough to identify, confirm and corroborate that Hezbollah (doing the bidding of Iran) is behind the bombing, despite presenting no actual evidence. Meanwhile, The Washington Post responsibly noted, "Israel offered no concrete evidence tying the bombing to Iran, and Bulgarian officials cautioned that it was too early to attribute responsibility."

To its credit, the White House itself has yet to point fingers in public (whether it has authorized the anonymous leaks to the press to propagate the Israeli narrative is of course up for debate). Aboard Air Force One this morning, Obama spokesman Jay Carney told the press, "As for those reports, I can tell you that we don't have any confirmation yet. We are working to assess the facts and, with our partners, to discover who was responsible." While sure included a boilerplate statement that "Hezbollah and Iran have been bad actors, as a general matter," Carney added, "But we're not, at this point, in a position to make a statement about responsibility." [One is left to wonder if Carney and his boss believe Israel and its Mossad to be "good actors, as a general matter."]

When asked whether there was any evidence that Hezbollah or Iran were responsible for the attack, Stefan Tafrov, Bulgarian representative to the United Nations, responded, "As of today, we don't know. We simply haven't identified the responsible country or organization or entity. We can't exclude anything, but we haven't identified the force, the organization behind this attack."

The NYPD has also jumped into the Blame Game with particular aplomb, releasing a report that claims "Iranian Revolutionary Guards or their proxies have been involved so far this year in nine plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world."

The report, based on what Reuters has revealed, is a mere two-pages long and contains no actual investigative information beyond what is readily available in press reports on various, alleged plots thwarted or carried out in the past seven months.  Apparently (perhaps unsurprisingly), the NYPD gets its top-notch analysis straight from the mouth of blustery Israeli leaders.

Despite all this, CNN reports that "Israel's U.S. Embassy said Wednesday that it had no proof that Iran was the instigator of the attack."

(h/t James Spencer)

*****

UPDATE IV:

July 21, 2012 - The New York Times has taken steps to walk back its earlier report citing an unnamed U.S. official who blamed Hezbollah for bombing. A new article, which details the steps Bulgarian, Israeli, and international investigators have taken to identify the alleged bomber, states:
American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity identified the suicide bomber as a member of a Hezbollah cell operating in Bulgaria.

But American officials stopped short of making the accusation in public, and Israel has yet to furnish proof of its assertions, which could help make the case for a pre-emptive strike to disable Iranian nuclear capabilities.

"The attack does bear some of the hallmarks of Hezbollah, but we're not in a position to make any final determination on who was responsible," a Pentagon spokesman, George Little, told reporters.
Also, the constant refrain that this bombing bears "hallmarks" or "fingerprints" of Hezbollah (and/or Iran) don't actually make sense considering suicide bombing isn't really the MO of either.

Undeterred from making baseless claims, Ehud Barak stated, "It is clear that Hezbollah is behind the attack as part of the series of events that we have seen over the past few weeks and months," adding, "At the same time we do not know who the bomber is but we can tell that he looks European."

For what it's worth, a previously unknown group, "Base of Jihad," has allegedly claimed responsibility for the bombing while both Hezbollah and Iran have strongly denied having any to do with the bombing.

*****

UPDATE V:

July 21, 2012 - It seems that no act of non-sensational, alarmist, accusatory journalism goes unpunished at The Washington Post. Whereas reporter Karin Brulliard was clear to state on Thursday that "Israel offered no concrete evidence tying the bombing to Iran, and Bulgarian officials cautioned that it was too early to attribute responsibility," the paper's editors don't waste their time with such trifles as facts.

Demonstrating its shameful disregard for evidence, or even the pretense of not being a propaganda outfit, The Washington Post's editorial board - led by the hawkish establishmentarian Fred Hiatt and career warmonger Jackson Diehl - has published a truly despicable piece entitled, "Holding Iran accountable for terrorist attacks," which opens this way:
The bombing of a bus in Bulgaria filled with Israeli tourists on Wednesday underlines the grim fact that Iran is waging a war of terrorism. Using the territory of countries across the world, working sometimes through proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and sometimes with its own forces, Tehran has been intentionally targeting not just diplomats of enemies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia but also civilians.
There are literally no "facts" to back up the Post's lurid claims. All references to other recent bomb plots are mere speculation and referencing the ridiculous Tex-Mex-Saudi-Iran-DC Delusional-Biploar-Used-Car-Salesman assassination plot should be enough to sufficiently destroy the credibility of this particular argument. The editors never mention Iran as a victim of terrorism (widely acknowledged to be the work of Israel and its hired, trained, and armed goons) and engage in a choice bit of libel when describing murdered Iranians working on a civilian energy program as "scientists building illicit weapons of mass destruction." That's appalling.

The oped naturally takes Netanyahu's word as Gospel and never even attempts to establish a baseline regard for the truth. The writers state that there exists "abundant" and "strong evidence linking Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to the attacks," but never gives any, nor do they link to an article or piece of information that might corroborate such an allegation.

This is pure garbage published in the pages of one of the most influential newspapers in the country.

*****

UPDATE VI:

July 22, 2012 - Today, speaking on Fox News to Chris Wallace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unequivocal in his unremitting insistence that Hezbollah was responsible for the Burgas bus bombing. This time around, he made it perfectly clear that his accusations are based solely upon assumptions rather than evidence. Here's what he told Wallace when asked if Israel has "established clear links between that bomber and Hezbollah and Iran":
That is certainly Hezbollah, yes. We do know who it is. I mean, the whole world can see who it is. We do know that it's Hezbollah. We would have known that, you have known, or been able to surmise that...Here, I'm not surmising. I am giving you something that I know as the prime minister of Israel, because I know, based on absolutely rock solid intelligence, this is Hezbollah and this is something that Iran knows about very, very well...

...we know with absolutely certainty, absolutely certainty and not a thread of doubt that this was a Hezbollah operation.
Netanyahu was also interviewed on CBS's "Face The Nation," where he declared, "We have unquestionable, full substantiated intelligence that this was done by Hezbollah and backed by Iran."

Strong words. When the bomber's identity is finally established and responsibility for the murders confirmed, how will they stand up?

Or, has Netanyahu's blustery allegations already made an impartial investigation - and objective examination of the facts and attribution of culpability - impossible with his widely-publicized claims?

*****

UPDATE VII:

December 4, 2012 - According to the Bulgarian English-language news outlet Novinite, while the investigation over who carried out the terrorist bombing in Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver has progressed, both Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and U.S. President Barack Obama agree that "the case required more work to make sure that the evidence would hold up in court."

The report quoted Borisov as saying, "President Obama promised that the US special services will start working more intensively to help us obtain more solid evidence against the organizer and perpetrator of the attack in Sarafovo. Both he and I know who it was, but Obama agreed with me that the court needs solid evidence."

Novinite noted, "At this stage, Bulgaria has not voiced official support for Israel's version about the terror attack in Burgas, which is also backed by the US and the UK."

Despite this clear lack of "solid evidence," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been peddling the allegation that Iran is responsible for the attack as if it were plain, undeniable fact.  Just a few days ago, in a speech at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, a hawkish establishment Washington think tank (founded by the fiercely anti-IranZionist ideologue Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban), Clinton declared, "[W]e know very well the Iranian regime already exports terrorism, not only to Israel's doorstep, but across the world. If we had a map I could put up there, I could show you what we track and plot on that map – the evidence of terrorism – mostly, thankfully, plots foiled or unsuccessful."

She continued, specifically referencing the Burgas bombing and attributing Iranian culpability: "Unfortunately, as in Bulgaria, some that succeeded. But those plots, those activities of Iran directly and through their agents, stretches from Mexico to Thailand."

*****

UPDATE VIII:

January 3, 2013 - Some more from the Bulgarian press:
Bulgarian police authorities have learned the real identity of one of the accomplices of the Burgas bus bomber, according to a local media report.
Police are currently looking for the suspect, whose name is yet to be revealed. 
The alleged accomplice acted in concert with the bomber, known under the alias Jacque Felipe Martin, as well as another accomplice, known under the alias Ralph William Rico.
The true identities of Martin and Rico have not been discovered yet.
*****

UPDATE IX:

February 7, 2013 - In what the press reported on February 6 as "the first major revelation in the case aired by Bulgarian investigators since the bombing killed five Israelis, their Bulgarian driver and the suspected bomber," Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov announced that two of the suspects implicated in the attack are "believed to have been part of 'the militant wing of Hezbollah.'"

After Israel reveled in the news and both Hezbollah and Iran denied the allegation, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov claimed political pressure had not influenced or compromised the investigation. "If Bulgaria did not have enough arguments to announce yesterday that the traces in this attack lead to Hezbollah's military wing, we would not have done it," he told a Bulgarian television station.

Some weren't convinced. The Global Post reported that Bulgarian analysts "accused the government of not having enough proof to level what may turn out to a dangerous accusation, and of kowtowing to Washington and Israel."
"We have joined the camp of US and Israel... allowing to be drawn into the big game where Hezbollah has to be eliminated as it supports the regime in Syria," international security expert Simeon Nikolov said.

"Do our leaders realise the responsibility they take in announcing results, which are not categorically backed by evidence?" the expert added on BNT television, slamming what he saw as "a strategic mistake" by the government.

"What is this 'justified assumption'? We entered a game, which is not ours without having any categorical proof to show," Yovo Nikolov from Capital weekly newspaper added.
Furthermore, Tihomir Bezlov from the Centre for the Study of Democracy, a Sofia think-tank, told the AFP that Bulgaria inevitably "relied heavily on resources from foreign security services."

It took less than a day for investigative journalist Gareth Porter to shed even more light on the nature of the Bulgarian announcement.

While many news sources, in their rendering of the story, "implied that the Bulgarian investigators had uncovered direct evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Burgas bombing," Porter tracks down statements made by Bulgarian and Europol officials that are far less conclusive.

Minister Tsvetanov told a session of Bulgaria's Consultative Council on National Security, "A reasonable assumption, I repeat a reasonable assumption, can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah," and later told the Sofia News Agency that the investigation had led to the "well-founded assumption" that Hezbollah was responsible. Minister Mladenov defended the claim, saying there was "good reason" to suspect Hezbollah.

While "investigators found no links to Iran," Europol Director Rob Wainright told the Associated Press that believed "Bulgarian authorities are making quite a strong assumption that this is the work of Hezbollah."

No official indicated that there was any hard evidence whatsoever to link Hezbollah to the Burgas attack. The allegations appear to hinge on "clumsily forged" drivers licenses that were printed in Lebanon. Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government had a major role in Bulgaria's investigation of the bombing.

Europol's Wainright even hedged in his comments to the press: "Even if it's not Hezbollah," he said, "it has still obviously been carried out by an organization with some capability in the world, so the threat remains."

*****

UPDATE X:

February 18, 2013 - The intrepid Gareth Porter has more on the ever-weakening Bulgarian case for Hezbollah complicity in the Burgas attack. He reports today:
The chief prosecutor in charge of the Bulgarian investigation revealed in an interview published in early January that the evidence available was too scarce to name any party as responsible, and that investigators had found a key piece of evidence that appeared to contradict it.
An article in a Bulgarian weekly in mid-January confirmed that the investigation had turned up no information on a Hezbollah role, and further reported that one of the suspects had been linked by a friendly intelligence service to Al-Qaeda.
Beyond this, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov has admitted that the allegation of Hezbollah's responsibility is merely a "grounded hypothesis."

Porter also reveals that the Bulgarian "decision to call the conclusion an 'assumption' or even the weaker 'hypothesis' about Hezbollah was obviously a compromise between the preference of the investigators themselves and the demands of the United States and Israel," and not based on any actual evidence.

*****

UPDATE XI:

February 20, 2013 - Gareth Porter has compiled his latest research into the evidence-free claims made by Bulgarian authorities at the behest of the United States and Israel regarding Hezbollah's culpability for last year's bus bombing into a single stellar piece now published on Al Jazeera English.

Porter explains how the Bulgarian government was strong-armed into making the announcement earlier this month after scant proof was found to back up Israeli and American claims. The timing too is important, considering the recent pressure exerted on the European Union to classify Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization," a move it has long resisted.

Porter concludes:
The US and Israel thus continue a pattern of ignoring the actual evidence in high profile terrorism cases in order to advance their political interests in relation to Iran and Hezbollah. That pattern was established nearly two decades ago with the US-Israeli pressure on Argentina to finger Iran in the 1994 AMIA bombing despite the absence of any evidence for such an accusation.

Some EU officials have indicated that they will demand actual evidence before listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. If so, it will be the first challenge to US-Israeli insistence on blaming their main regional adversaries for terrorist actions, even when the evidence points elsewhere.
*****

UPDATE XII:

March 29, 2013 - In a statement revealing just how tenuous and potentially unsubstantiated allegations of Hezbollah culpability in last year's Burgas bombing that tragically took the lives of five Israeli tourists and a bus driver, Marin Raykov - Bulgaria's appointed interim Prime Minister - said today that Bulgaria would not push for the European Union to officially label Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

The Associated Press reports Raykov as saying that the Bulgarian government "will not initiate an EU procedure for blacklisting persons and organizations" in remarks made "during a farewell ceremony for the Lebanese ambassador, who pledged Lebanon’s full support for the investigation."

While Bulgarian officials said in February that Hezbollah's responsibility for the attack was based on a "grounded hypothesis" and "well-founded assumption," it is clear the investigation has been anything but conclusive and appears to be ongoing. Bulgaria still "says it will hand to its partners all evidence collected during the investigation into the attack."

*****

Saturday, July 14, 2012

MEK Spokesmen and Their Cozy Home at The Huffington Post



Earlier this week, Glenn Greenwald reported that, on Tuesday,
The Huffington Post published a post by Hossein Abedini, who was identified in the byline as a “Member of Parliament in exile of Iranian Resistance.” His extended HuffPost bio says that he “belongs to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran” (NCRI). The NCRI is the political arm of the Mujahideen-e Khalq, (MeK), the Iranian dissident group (and longtime Saddam ally) that has been formally designated by the U.S. State Department since 1997 as a Terrorist organization, yet has been paying large sums of money to a bipartisan cast of former U.S. officials to advocate on its behalf (the in-hiding President of the NCRI, Massoud Rajavi, is, along with his wife Maryam Rajavi, MeK’s leader). Abedini, the HuffPost poster, has been identified as a MeK spokesman in news reports, and has identified himself the same way when, for instance, writing letters to NBC News objecting to negative reports about the group.
After noted journalists Hooman Majd, Robert Mackey, Greenwald himself, and others "noted the oddity that HuffPost was publishing pieces from a designated Terrorist group, HuffPost deleted the piece."  A HuffPo spokesperson also told Greenwald that Abedini's post "was published by mistake," adding, "By policy, we don't publish blog posts by people affiliated with designated terrorist organizations. The blog editor who published it was unaware that NCRI is MEK's political arm. When the mistake was discovered the post was removed."

Nevertheless, all of Abedini's previous articles remain archived on HuffPo.  Furthermore, Greenwald points out that "The Huffington Post has also repeatedly published Ali Safavi, who is also identified as 'a member of Iran’s Parliament in Exile, National Council of Resistance of Iran'" and "use[s] his HuffPost platform to propagate standard MeK propaganda."  All of Safavi's posts remain accessible.

But that's not all.

There's yet another MeK/NCRI spokesman and propagandist who also regularly posts articles on HuffPo: Alireza Jafarzadeh.  All of his posts remain live on HuffPo, where he is touted (in a bio written by himself) as a foreign affairs analyst who has appeared all over Western media, speaking on behalf of the terrorist groupFox News has long featured him as a contributing commentator and he currently runs his own "consulting" firm in Washington D.C. called "Strategic Policy Consulting" which is pretty much just a phony company that manages his own media appearances and lobbying to Congress.  One look at his Twitter feed removes all doubt as to Jafarzadeh's affiliation (at the highest level) with the MeK.

In a tweet from June 2, 2012, Jafarzadeh linked to a New York Times article about potential MeK delisting and added the hastag #WhatIDreamAbout.



Many of his online bios ignore his clear connection to the MeK; however, his bio on the "Strategic Policy" site and HuffPo itself contain a version of the following: "Until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesperson for the US representative office of Iran’s parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran."

When the D.C. office of NCRI was shut down in 2003 by the State Department, Jafarzadeh and others like him created a network of front organizations to continue spreading the MeK message without explicitly using the name.  According to a 2004 FBI report, Alireza Jafarzadeh was said "to be running the MEK cell in the Washington D.C. area" along with another MeK shill Soona Samsami.  No one would honestly believe that Jafarzadeh's role as MeK spokesman is something of the past.

At a Capitol Hill hearing last July, Jafarzadeh, along with well-known MeK spokesman Ali Safavi, was seen counseling three of the panel's witnesses - Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Representative Bob Filner (D-CA), and former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey - in the halls of Congress right before the hearing.  This would appear to demonstrate even more evidence of direct coordination between current and former U.S. officials and representatives of a designated terrorist group - in the halls of our own government no less.  Shockingly, Capitol Hill police made no arrests.

But hey, at least it's not like these designated terrorists throw parties, attended by people like House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and former Homeland Security secretary and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, in Congress itself.  Oh wait, never mind.

It should also be noted that neocon hawk Danielle Pletka of AEI is even disgusted by the high-priced advocacy on behalf of the MeK by U.S. political players.  Earlier this month, she referenced the Foreign Agents Registration Act in a post excoriating paid MeK shills like Howard Dean, Mike Mukasey and Jim Jones, writing,

This litany of whoring (is there any other word?) for foreign terrorists is appalling. And don’t soothe yourself with the notion that the MEK aren’t really terrorists or are about to be delisted by the State Department. Delisting is ridiculous, but also irrelevant. Foreign principals are foreign principals, and people who do their bidding are foreign agents. FARA is a criminal statute; let’s see what Justice does about enforcing it. For shame on these lobbyists for terrorists, each and every one.

And that's coming from a pal and defender of fake dissident leader/regime change hero Ahmad Chalabi.  Yikes.

*****